Child says he wants to die | Focus on the Family Australia
Child says he wants to die
By Focus On The Family
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Question

What should I do when my 6 year old son tells me he wishes he were dead? He said that today and I was so shocked I didn’t know what to say back.

Answer

That statement would startle any parent!

But one thing to remember is that for a 6 year old, any number of things can lead to big feelings. And big emotions can seem permanent. Kids at this age don’t really understand that death is permanent, too — they just see it as a way to escape from their worries.

So as you talk with your son, affirm his honesty and then get to the heart of his thoughts. It’s possible that one of three things is happening:

Your child might be feeling overwhelmed by something

  • Is he falling behind in school?
  • Is there a bully on the playground?
  • Does he have trouble fitting in with the other kids in his class?
  • Has there been a recent death in the family that has hit him especially hard?

Try to get your son to talk about it. As questions like, “Can you tell me what’s happened to make you feel this way? When did it start? How long has it been going on?”

When you’ve figured out the cause of his hopeless expression, it would probably be a good idea to get a professional counsellor to help him work through his feelings.

In the meantime, keep the channels of communication open. Let him know that he can talk to you whenever something is too much to handle.

Your child might be talking this way to get attention

Children your son’s age often resort to extreme strategies when they feel invisible or like no one is listening to them. Ask yourself if your son has a reason to think that’s true.

  • Is there a new baby in the house?
  • Are you and your spouse going through marriage difficulties or financial troubles?
  • What else is happening at home that might make a 6 year old think that no one cares whether he lives or dies?

Sit down with your son and ask him, “Do you feel like no one in this family pays attention to you?” If he says yes, then focus on that. Find out what you can do to make sure he knows that he is seen and loved.

Don’t get hung up on the subject of death and dying. Instead, help him develop life skills to overcome feelings of discouragement and alienation.

Your child could be talking about death as a way of expressing anger or frustration

  • Maybe he’s mad about having too many chores or too much homework (to his way of thinking).
  • Maybe he feels that he’s always in the shadow of an older sibling
  • He might think that other family members have more privileges than he does.

If that’s the case, he might be saying “I wish I were dead” as a way of getting revenge. Here again, you can ask questions to get him talking.

Don’t ignore his behavior or pretend he never said those disturbing words. Instead, talk to him and find out why he might want to hurt others by picturing his own death. That will be the best way to find a solution to the problem. If his behaviour continues, don't hesitate to have him reviewed by his GP or paediatrician.

© 2014 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Originally published at focusonthefamily.com.

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